“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”
-Laura Ingalls Wilder
As we gather together today for the global March for Our Lives, in support of this youth-inspired mass action, seventiesology stands with a generation that clearly has had enough.
As I began writing this piece strolling through the wind on a trail along the Bay, I contemplated posting particular remembrances of the many marches, protests and events during the 1970s. To trumpet and compare these with the students of Parkland and around America, and the ways we made inroads on a highway filled with potholes, black ice, and roadblocks. How ten years of musicians, poets, authors, writers, athletes, public and political figures, and everyday people brought down a corrupt president, began the dismantling of the perilous nuclear power industry, rooted for Greenpeace to protect our most intelligent and graceful sea creatures from the barbarian whaling industry, cheered on a woman kicking a man’s ass in tennis, further expanded the tenuous but increasing awareness of women’s rights, and in its own singular way a new wave of punk rock music abroad and in the U.S. raised its middle finger to the establishment.
In previous posts I offered commentary on how a wave of ‘70s protest, music, and various forms of counterculture played the outspoken, yet respectful, (somewhat) doting role of stepchild to the (mostly) incendiary 1960s.
With its be-ins, love-ins, sit-ins, draft card-burning, Freedom Riding, Democratic Convention-busting, bra-burning, Civil Rights marching, Hair, LSD-tripping, college demonstrating, sexual experimenting, Altamont-stabbing, and other shades of pent-up non-violent expression or outbursts of relative marching madness – from Haight Street to Yasgur’s farm – no one had ever before set eyes on a revolution with both flowers in its hair and Molotov cocktail in its hand.
We heard the booming voice of a preacher with black skin who galvanized a generation and dreamed of a mountaintop only to be gunned down in Memphis, we cried for Vietnam veterans returning home disillusioned by an unwinnable war and an overall lack of patriotic appreciation for their service, we rocked out to the best damned music ever, we huddled around televisions in July of 1969 to pause and admire what humanity can do in space when our species isn’t tied up in trying to topple other nations in the name of capitalism over communism or self-destruct in the attempt, we learned of a variant of ongoing and little-known near-slavery in American fields of produce as the courageous Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta inevitably established the United Farmworkers Union, and in a downtown Los Angeles hotel in June of 1968 another shot rings out, another light for hope is quashed – opening the door for Richard Nixon’s ascension to the throne and his subsequent malfeasance unlike any prior leader of the free world.
That was nearly fifty years ago. Today, tomorrow and in the days, weeks, months and years to come, the so-called passive, indulgent, entitled, apathetic, and/or disinterested-in-saving-the-planet youth of America will have their moments. And it will be much longer than the fifteen minutes of fame unjustly earned by murderous sociopaths. (Can anyone say news blackout – never letting us know who the killer is like many other countries do?) How much will our young people’s actions re-establish and fortify a sense of safety, incite new laws, while confronting those who often appear to treasure owning weapons more than life itself?
They care. They will take on the 2nd Amendment, with help from our brightest Constitutional legal advisors and high-profile public figures. Washington with its super PACs has stood on the wavering gospel of “a well regulated Militia” for far too long. Our leaders have bowed down to the Gods of the NRA, especially for the campaign donations. Hey, Congressional leadership, during the American Revolution, a fine marksman could fire three musket balls in under a minute. Ya think the person (I will not mention the perp’s name), with his AR-15 and the bloodbath he (not it) let loose upon the students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas might not exactly represent what the framers had in mind?
Every injury or death on or near a school campus, whether elementary or post-secondary, is unfathomable, incomprehensible, abhorrent, repugnant, nefarious, and counter to everything for which we stand. That goes without saying . . . but we need to hammer it home . . . now . . . in the most patriotic way possible.
Due to the embarrassing fact that school-related mass shootings are so commonplace in this country, I highlight below only some of the most egregious criminal acts, many of them carried out with assault weapons. As I wrote in my piece on Brenda Ann Spencer, for every incident, there are thousands upon thousands of individuals directly and indirectly affected, many we may not have heard about on the news because of either the rapid response and heroism from school staff and students, or the quick, precise actions of law enforcement. No matter the specific occurrence, no matter one injury or multiple casualties, we’ve heard a persistent echo from dedicated police commanders that once automatic gunfire begins, minutes just do not matter when you’re chasing the tail of the rising death toll caused in milliseconds by a determined and highly organized shooter.
We stand with those of you affected in any and all ways by these mass shootings and every other devastating and terrifying assault on the lives of children, teenagers, young adults and the school personnel who did all they could:
Parkland (2018), Marshall County, Kentucky (2018), Rancho Tehama Reserve California (2017), Roseburg, Oregon (2015), Santa Monica, California (2013), Sandy Hook (2012), Oakland, California (2012), DeKalb, Illinois (2008), Virginia Tech (2007), Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania (2006 – Amish school), Red Lake, Minnesota (2005), Santee, California (2001), Columbine (1999), Craighead County, Arkansas (1998), Springfield, Oregon (1998), Pearl, Mississippi (1997), West Paducah, Kentucky (1997), Olivehurst, California (1992), Detroit (1992), Stockton, California (1989), Greenwood, South Carolina (1988), Los Angeles (1984), and San Diego (1979) – the “mother of . . . schoolyard massacres” who didn’t like Mondays.
Now we inhabit this Anthropocene Epoch. Even in light of daily tragedies around the world, how many among the billions on the planet seek out the beauty, the gift in every moment, no matter one’s station? If we are indeed slipping into the sunset years of our existence on Planet Earth, why not simply revel in the work we do, delight in the time with friends and family? Do we even have the capability to slow down? Pollyanna doesn’t stand a chance, it would seem, but she recently whispered in my ear: Why not? Cynicism may rule the day, barely getting by from paycheck to paycheck, or being a victim to a list of atrocities, also too elaborate to list. Why would anyone bother to shift their mindset to all that is good?
Obviously, this is hardly black and white. Everything we do as a global society to work together to reduce carbon emissions, and do it soon, will add the necessary time to discover solutions much more important than driverless cars (that crash and kill pedestrians) and voice recognition devices (that eliminate even more of our privacy for “convenience”). Technology has been killing us in schools, airplanes crashing into towers, cellular transmissions detonating bombs remotely, nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction, and drones that are spying on you when you get dressed in the morning.
Yet, it is saving more lives than ever in health care, educating more people than ever (online learning), helping to develop alternative energy at a furious pace, and re-imagining Mars as a colony where hopefully our self-destructive tendencies would not follow us to the red planet.
Do we have the capacity to care enough to finally and completely crawl out of the primordial ooze? Over the millennia, millions of us have had no problem shedding the mud and odious smell. Unfortunately, generation after generation many people are scattered across the latitudes and longitudes, who happen to be standing erect, but in reality, they evolved only to the point of basic survival in murky pools.
From a comprehensive selection of celebrations – typically annual and mainly based here at home – here are my Sweet 16 match-ups featuring mission statements or an About message . . . sweet in ways that make me smile, and hopefully you as well.
Number 16 vs. Number 1: Star Wars Day vs. International Day of Happiness
Yes, it was precisely derived from the pun: May the Fourth be with you, thus celebrated annually on May 4th. Fanatics of this iconic film series that just won’t die gather around the world. With apologies to the unstoppable force-down-low, Chewbacca, this team is mainly comprised of geeks and nerds with limited athletic skills; but eke in as the 16th seed.
The Number One seed has been dominant not only this year, but since it was formally adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2012. The well-being of everyone on the planet has carried them to six consecutive national championships:
“The General Assembly,[…] Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,[…] Recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, Decides to proclaim 20 March the International Day of Happiness, Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities[…]”
– United Nations General Assembly, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 June 2012
Number 15 vs. Number 2: “Louie, Louie” vs. National Hug Day
The Louie Louie Advocacy and Music Appreciation Society and their boosters can only do so much to support the enigmatic followers of one of rock music’s most baffling mega-hit of all time. Loud, raucous entertainment? Sure. Basketball chops? Not even.
Initially established in 1986, National Hug Day has continued to grow internationally. Formed by friends and family to hug as often as possible, the creators and organizers of events expect “reasonable care” to be taken when encountering strangers or those uncomfortable with public affection. A simple verbal request is all that’s necessary. The organization cites extensive research on the health benefits of excessive hugging. Think about it? When was the last time you were hugged outright and unconditionally? How did you feel afterward? Advantage, they play a superb team defense. However, it can sometimes be too smothering, leading to technical fouls.
Number 14 vs. Number 3: National Kite Month vs. World Chocolate Day
“National Kite Month is a not-for-profit venture co-founded by the American Kitefliers Association and the Kite Trade Association International Kite events around the world help introduce people to the fun of kite flying, the rich history of kites, the stunning artistry of kitemakers, and how kits can be used as educational tools.”
Though the team has some high-flyers who can soar above the rim, they are limited by distraction as their ability to reach the clouds sometimes carries them from the arena and playing defense.
Truly the measure of “Sweet” 16, the energy provided by the delicious treat provides the players with the necessary sugar rush. However, over the course of the year, their few losses were synonymous with late afternoon games, as even their coach admitted the team appears to be “suffering from a sugar low.”
Number 13 vs. Number 4: International Cherry Blossom Festival vs. World Kindness Day
“We shall work to enhance the quality of life, community fellowship, and civic pride of all Macon and Middle Georgia residents through the encouragement, development, and coordination of selected recreational, cultural, and social activities. A secondary purpose of the Festival is to share our quality of life, community fellowship, and civic pride with visitors attracted by the activities of the Festival.
Our overall theme is “Love, Beauty, and International Friendship.” We will conduct, organize, promote, and maintain the Macon, Georgia International Cherry Blossom Festival by continuing as a non-profit organization which will serve to sponsor the Festival as an annual event in Macon, Georgia and to provide financial and human resources as may be necessary for its operation.”
More sweetness, considering the luscious taste of cherries. However, this team is still on the fringes having not yet blossomed into a full-fledged finalist contender.
“WKM is an international movement with no political or religious affiliations. The formation of the organisation crystallised at a conference in Tokyo on 13th November 1997 when Japan brought together like-minded kindness organisations from around the world for the first time. WKM is now recognised as the peak global body for Kindness and whilst not a governing body it is a platform for collaboration and sharing. The mission of the WKM is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness by connecting nations to create a kinder world. Members of the movement include over 28 nations with representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Romania, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom and with six member organisations in the USA. Following the elections at the London 7th General Assembly in 2012 the kindness torch was passed from Singapore to Australia for the first time, Australia was appointed as the organisation’s Secretariat. The 8th General Assembly in 2014 saw China, France, Switzerland and Thailand appointed to the International Council for the first time. Australia, India, Nigeria and South Korea were re-elected to serve second terms with the expectation to implement the global strategies developed to bring about positive change whereby all nations of the world can be united under a Coalition of the Good-willing. In 2017 at the 9th General Assembly in Seoul we welcome WKM’s new International Council representing South Korea, Switzerland, India, Australia, Netherlands, Nigeria, China, Mexico who strive to inspire its members and our world leaders, that the vision of a kinder world can be realised in our lifetime.”
WKM has been in the Final Four over the last three years. Having yet to experience a championship, they feel this year is their best chance to date. One strategic issue they must overcome: They are too nice during games and often help fallen players of the opposite team, have friendly side conversations with their opponents, fail to ever receive technical fouls or argue a call, and during their six losses this year, they hightailed it to the winning teams’ bench to hug all the players before they dispersed to the locker room. Bring on your game faces, WKM!
Number 12 vs. Number 5: Pi Day vs. International Edible Books Festival
This is a match-up of logos vs. pathos, formulaic game-planning vs. intuitive plays, celebrating with pie after a victory vs. a epicurean concoctions based on books such as a cinnamon bun (the stump) with the “Boy” leaning against it representing The Giving Tree.
The team came into its own back in 1988 when some of the staff at the San Francisco Exploratorium wandered around in circles eating pie. In 2009, Congress passed a resolution making it official. As 3.14 is the shorthand version of the infinite number, March 14 (3/14) holds significance, as it ignites passion in the engineers and mathematicians who comprise both the men’s and ladies’ teams, and it occurs when the tournament is about to begin.
What more does an athlete need? Carbs, protein, fat, energy bars and drinks? Their advantage is that their buffet selection features more than just pie; salads, fruit, nuts. Book this one for the readers.
Number 11 vs. Number 6: Peace Crane Project vs. Stay Safe Online
Though they are seed high, watch out for an Upset Special. Players possess excellent dexterity. Making origami cranes has allowed them to develop quick hands, win the majority of tie-ups to avoid a possession arrow change (jump ball in the NBA). As a team member, they play on behalf of a youngster from a country somewhere across the globe, sharing letters, stories, memorabilia, signatures, posters, shoes, and smiles. This team is dangerous; Stay Safe Online.
“We invite school and community groups, individuals and families, all around the world to fold a peace crane or dove, fill its wings with words and pictures of peace, then through us, trade it with another child somewhere in the world. We host the Peace Crane Project every day of the year. Many groups choose to join us for the United Nations International Day of Peace, held each September 21. Some of our schools and groups plan their curriculum months in advance. With schedules varying so dramatically around the world, we want to make sure we allow plenty of time to become a part of the September school curriculum in your community. If you plan to join us in September, please sign up as far in advance as possible and begin to plan as soon as you are able. There are many United Nations days that you can celebrate with an exchange of peace cranes! Please sign up for our newsletter to learn all the ways you can incorporate our program into your classroom or community group’s activities.”
“Helping to make the internet safer and more secure for everyone.”
Management has provided coaching staff with all of the best technology to break down their upcoming opponents’ strategy. All NCAA teams are allowed the same systems however the highest recruited students grew up spending years playing basketball video games, and from there, incorporated these hand-eye coordination practices on their defenders. Players do advocate for protecting your privacy online, but on the court, they will expose all of an opponents’ weaknesses.
Number 10 vs. Number 7: Kissing Day vs. International Friendship Day
“National Kissing Day has worked with a mixture of brands and organisations surrounding the nation’s kissing habits to find out the best techniques, worst mistakes, and most shocking statistics. The nation’s kissing antics have been investigated, revealing that young lovers in the 18 to 24 age group are making out an average of 11 times each week, while 5% of people aged over 45 are managing more than a staggering 31 passionate kisses each week! Who said that romance was dead? Seeing as the platform has great prestige, stations, channels and websites are keen to cover activity that is associated with National Kissing Day. We’ve had great coverage in the past with spokespeople such as Holly Willoughby supporting National Kissing Day. If you are in the media and want to cover the events, a brand looking to become a partner, or just want to get involved, just get in touch!”
Surprisingly, the loveable team that after nailing a three-pointer, puckers up in basketball style (two fingers to the lips and gazing up at the sky as if to say I got this) is seeded this high. Just two years ago, they were one of the lower seeds at the NIT. A sign of the times? Or a random anomaly? International Friendship Day better no think they’re going to tiptoe through the two lips.
The notion of an annual world friendship celebration first began in South America in the late 1950s. Sixty-one years later, the General Assembly of the UN declared July 30 as International Friendship Day. Those benefiting are the greeting card industry, advertisers on social media, and mobile devices. However, the purest symbol of worldwide connectivity has mainly been the proliferation of the friendship bracelets and wristbands.
Team unity is typically the coach’s prevalent message from day one each year. This year it has been evident in their dominant play, their obvious enjoyment of playing on the same court as one unit and getting to know one another outside of team responsibilities.
Number 9 vs. Number 8: Screen Free vs. International Forgiveness Day
“Screen-Free Week is an annual, international celebration when families, schools, and communities swap digital entertainment for the joys of life beyond the screen. Instead of watching TV, surfing the web, or playing with apps and video games, they read, play, think, create, get active, and spend more time with family and friends. Remember, Screen-Free Week is about taking a break from digital entertainment. You can celebrate, and still use devices for work or school. But if screens of any kind interfere with family time (including meals), you may want to rethink how and when you’re using them. Regardless of whether children are consuming “good” or “bad” programming, it’s clear that digital entertainment dominates the lives of far too many kids, displacing all sorts of other activities that are integral to childhood. Excessive screen time is linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, and attention problems. And it is primarily through screens that children are exposed to harmful marketing. Screen-Free Week is a fun way to rethink our dependence on digital entertainment, including television, video games, smartphones, tablets, and computers. It’s a chance for children — and adults — to power down and reconnect with the world around them. And it encourages families to reconsider the role of digital entertainment in the year that follows (for example, some families become inspired to go screen-free at meals or in the hour before bedtime, or to spend part or all of their weekends screen-free). Anyone can participate by simply refraining from using digital entertainment during Screen-Free Week. But experience tells us that it’s more fun – and much easier – to go screen-free with others.”
Here we have the tightest game, as a 9 vs. 8 should be. Rumor has it that Screen Free has followed the mission statement throughout the entire month of February and into late March. So far, the results are staggering. They’ve outscored opponents by two-to-one in nine of ten games. They are focused, are never seen checking cell phones or mobile devices, nor do they post on social media sites. Earlier in their season, a five-game losing streak placed them in a hole. But now we know that once the team captain stepped in and tossed his iPhone in the trash, they’ve been nearly invincible. Plan on this group to have the game of their lives and do not count them out as a potential Final Four contender.
“The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)3 tax-deductible organization whose mission is to evoke the healing spirit of Forgiveness worldwide. We declare that Forgiveness Is the Greatest Healer of Them All and that Without Forgiveness There Is No Future. To accomplish this far-reaching mission, we have set the following goals: To establish an International Forgiveness Day in every village and hamlet across the world by the year 2025. To bring the curative powers of forgiveness to the elderly, to youth, to chemically dependent and/or abused women, men and children through classes, workshops and seminars. To promote the practice of forgiveness as a Life Skill and to develop curriculum, classes and workshops for children, youth and adults of all ages. To develop training programs to certify counselors as Forgiveness Life Skill Teachers. To create forgiveness workshops and seminars in corporations to effectuate breakthroughs and help increase net profits. The benefits of forgiveness training breakthroughs make possible more creative, stress-free and happy job relationships which can increase net profits. To promote and publicize the research findings that Forgiveness creates better health, abundance and ease, more joy, greater optimism and hope and lessens depression, stress, illness, disease. Forgiveness also opens one to more lasting, happy, supportive relationships. To help develop and conduct further research to quantify and codify the powerful effects of the applied practice of forgiveness in a multiplicity of settings. To create entertainment/learning events (Forgiveness Film Festivals, Forgiveness Concerts, etc.) in communities around the world.”
To forgive is divine. But not on your team’s run at the NCAA basketball tournament championship. Who will be the goat who makes the costly turnover with seconds to play? Who will toss up an air ball from the free throw line that would seal the victory? What star player will play the worst game of their career? Which sixteen seed will be upset? (It doesn’t happen.) What coach will make a poor decision with the game on the line? Will an official see a foul that wasn’t there, leading to an unjust victory? And can we forgive the person or persons who decided that innocent goats everywhere became associated with “guilty party?”
How do you define the “great healing spirit of forgiveness?” Saying “I’m sorry?” Taking action instead of using words? When heinous crimes are involved, how can the victim’s family ever forgive the perpetrator? On a global scale, how do we forgive human error such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the Challenger disaster?
We speak of moving forward, not holding grudges, living your life again; reclaiming it. When we arrive at the heart of the matter, how one handles forgiving others in our lives is a personal decision and is nobody’s business to change.
As such, these players are tenacious, yet when a teammate makes a mistake, it’s always followed with a pat on the back or words of encouragement.
So, let us not forget: It’s only a game.
Out here in the real world, we human beings could use a surfeit of togetherness once more, more small victories leading to larger, sustaining ones. Something to rally around. An overwhelming perception of pride in what we do and will do. An uplifting trajectory. It won’t come from politicians; it will stem from the words and actions of ordinary people, and as of today, let’s see that it is our youth that carries the day.
And carries more March Gladness into April, May, June . . .
Let us allow Sir Paul to close this piece and remind us of why we do what we do.